The skirmishers went within seventy-five yards of the fort, where nearly a dozen were wounded by the bursting of shells from the fleet.
One soldier ran forward to the ditch and captured a flag, which the shells had cut from the parapet; and Lieutenant Walling
, of the One Hundred and Forty-second New York Regiment, seeing a courier leave the sally-port, near the Cape Fear
, rushed forward, shot the messenger, took his pistols from the holsters and a paper from his pocket, and, mounting the dead man's mule, rode back to the lines.
The paper contained an order from Colonel Lamb
, the immediate commander of the fort, for some powder to be sent in.
did not go on shore, but in the tug Chamberlain
he moved to Fort Fisher
, abreast the troops, and kept up communication with Weitzel
Meanwhile, the remainder of Ames
' Division had captured over two hundred North Carolinians, with ten commissioned officers, from whom Butler
learned that Hoke
's Division had been detached from the Confederate army at Petersburg
for the defense of Wilmington
; that two brigades were then within two miles of Fort Fisher
, and that others were pressing on. The weather was now murky, and a heavy surf was beginning to roll in, making it impossible to land any more troops.
, who had thoroughly reconnoitred the fort, reported to Butler
that in his judgment, and that of the officers with him, a successful assault upon it, with the troops at hand, would be impossible, for the moment the fleet should cease firing, the parapets would be fully manned and its nineteen heavy guns would sweep the land.
It was also evident that the Confederate
force outside of Fort Fisher
, and near it, was much larger than that of the Nationals.
Considering all of these things, Butler
ordered the troops to withdraw and re-embark.
While doing so, at twilight, the guns of the navy ceased work, when those of Fort Fisher
sent a storm of grape and canister-shot after the retiring troops.
It was impossible to get them on board that night, and it was thirty-six hours before they were rescued from their perilous position.
On the following day the transports departed for Hampton Roads
, leaving the fleet lying off Fort Fisher
, with its ammunition nearly exhausted.
The National loss, in this attack, was about fifty men killed and wounded, nearly all by the bursting of six heavy Parrott guns of the fleet.
The Confederate loss was three killed, fifty-five wounded, and three hundred made prisoners.
The failure to capture Fort Fisher
produced keen disappointment, and Admiral Porter
's misleading report caused widespread